But impressive as his performance was, Robert Kubica stole the plaudits. The ex-Formula 1 driver was second in a Citroen DS3 RRC on his first gravel rally before retiring en route to the final stage in Lisbon.
Lappi, who won every round of the Finnish Championship last year, was fastest on the opening stage by just one-tenth of a second from championship leader Sepp Wiegand, despite feeling uncomfortable with his pace notes.
Lappi built his advantage to 18.8sec over the next two stages before Wiegand slipped back and Kubica became his closest challenger. When the Pole was sidelined, 2011 FIA WRC Academy champion Elfyn Evans moved into second in a Ford Fiesta RRC.
Wiegand looked set to complete the overnight podium but the German hit a wall at the opening corner of the Lisbon stage and dropped almost 1min 30sec as he stopped to change a damaged wheel. Edoardo Bresolin inherited third, 1min 50.2sec behind Lappi.
Kubica was quickly into the groove on gravel with fourth fastest in the opening stage. However, he feared his rally could be over on the next test when a branch pierced his radiator and he completed the stage with water leaking from the engine.
On the following road section Kubica and co-driver Maciek Baran sealed the radiator with putty before topping up the cooling system with water from their drinks bottles.
Kubica also damaged the front right tyre in the same stage. After picking up two more punctures later in the day, he was left with insufficient rubber to drive north to Lisbon, stopping in a motorway service area after 50km of the 206km journey.
Evans was a model of consistency, the young Welshman setting four third fastest times on his debut at this level.
Robert Barrable (Fiesta S2000), Ukraine’s Oleksii Kikireshko (Mini JCW S2000) and Wiegand complete the top six.
Retirements included Rashid Al Ketbi, who crashed his Skoda Fabia S2000 on SS3, and Nikita Kondrakhin, whose similar Fabia stopped in the following test. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari, category winner at the previous round in Mexico, went out after hitting the same wall as Wiegand.